Of all the white wine grape varietals, surely the one which has spread the furthest and is most widely appreciated is the Chardonnay. This green skinned grape is now grown all over the Old and New Worlds, from New Zealand to the Americas, from England to Chile, and is one of the first varietals people think of when considering white wine grapes. Perhaps this is because of its huge popularity which reached a peak in the 1990s, thanks to new technologies combining with traditional methods to bring the very best features out of the Chardonnay grape, and allow its unique qualities to shine through. Most fine Chardonnay wines use a process known as malolactic fermentation, wherein the malic acids in the grape juice are converted to lactic acids, allowing a creamier, buttery nature to come forward in the wine. No grape varietal is better suited to this process than Chardonnay, which manages to balance these silky, creamy notes with fresh white fruit flavors beautifully.
For lovers of New World wine, the region of Salta is generally regarded as being amongst the finest and most geographically interesting in the world. Situated at the extreme north of Argentina, Salta is a wine region which is both at an impressively high altitude, as well as an extremely low latitude, being a mere twenty four degrees from the equator. However, these two factors cancel each other out when it comes to viticulture, producing a superbly warm and fertile environment for the cultivation of vineyards. The mountainous landscape of Salta reaches elevations of up to 3,000 meters above sea level, an astonishing figure which demonstrates just how unique the region is. Within the main wine provinces of Cafayate and Molinos, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (the region's flagship varietals) grow to full ripeness in the blazing sunshine, and produce exceptionally flavorful wines.
It is said that the first Argentinian vines were planted in the Mendoza more than four hundred years ago by European settlers, and despite these early wines being used primarily for religious purposes, the fervor for wine making never left the area. Today, Argentina is keen to demonstrate its technological prowess when it comes to vineyard cultivation, by combining traditional methods of irrigation left over from the Huarpes Indians with modern techniques in order to make the dry, arid desert an ideal environment for growing grapes. Indeed, these ancient irrigation channels, dug hundreds of years ago and still in use today, bring mineral-rich melt water from the Andes via the Mendoza river, something which gives the grapes grown in this region some of their character. The primary grape of this and other regions of Argentina is the Malbec, which is highly susceptible to rot in its native France, but which thrives in the dry and hot climate of South America, producing rich and plummy wines which are highly drinkable especially when young.